TRAHANT REPORTS—First the news. Then the context.
The news is that Deborah Parker has been named to the Democratic National Convention’s Platform Committee. That’s both remarkable and important. She was appointed by Bernie Sanders.
As Nicole Willis posted on Facebook: “I am beyond pleased that American Indian and Alaska Native issues are such a high priority for this campaign – so much that one of our platform spots has gone to Deborah Parker!” (Willis is the National Tribal Outreach Director for the Sanders’ campaign.)
Now the context.
Every four years political parties craft carefully worded statements. They outline exactly what the party hopes to achieve over the next four years should they win the White House and Congress. These are aspirational documents, not a governing document or political legislation.
So the way it works is that usually the party’s nominee selects the platform committee. That’s exactly what will happen on the Republican side as Donald Trump will start to put his stamp on the Republicans campaign.
But the Democrats are not there yet. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a sizable lead, but not quite enough delegates to win. And Bernie Sanders is in that tough spot of trying to catch up to Clinton with fewer and fewer delegates up for grabs. When there is no nominee, usually, the party appoints the convention committee posts.
On Monday the party picked another route. Clinton was awarded 6 seats; Sanders 5; and the remaining 4 will be appointed by the party itself.
Politico calls this a “concession” to Sanders because his supporters will be able to influence the party to be more progressive on a range of issues, such as a higher minimum wage.
Parker, a former vice chairman of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington, was an early supporter of Sanders. Parker has much to offer any platform committee. First, she understands and can communicate the relationship between tribes and the federal government and what might be possible in terms of improvement. Second, Parker was a critical voice in the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act. She adds expertise and credibility.
Four years ago, the Democratic Party Platform included this section on Tribal Sovereignty:
American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are sovereign self-governing communities, with a unique government-to-government relationship with the United States. President Obama and Democrats in Congress, working with tribes, have taken unprecedented steps to resolve long-standing conflicts, finally coming to a resolution on litigation—some dating back nearly 100 years—related to management of Indian trust resources, administration of loan programs, and water rights.
The President worked with Democrats to pass the HEARTH Act to promote greater tribal self-determination and create jobs in Indian country. The Affordable Care Act permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to improve care for Native Americans. Democrats enacted the Tribal Law and Order Act, support expansion of the Violence Against Women Act to include greater protection for women on tribal lands, and oppose versions of the Violence Against Women Act that do not include these critical provisions. We will continue to honor our treaty and trust obligations and respect cultural rights, including greater support for American Indian and Alaska Native languages. Democrats support maximizing tribal self-governance, including efforts for self-determination and sovereignty of Native Hawaiians.
In addition to Parker, other members of the Democratic Platform Commitee:
Bernie Sanders’ appointments:
* Dr. Cornell West;
* Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota);
*Bill McKibben (Author, expert on climate change);
* James Zogby (Arab American Institute)
Hillary Clinton’s appointments:
*Ambassador Wendy Sherman;
*Neera Tanden (Center for American Progress);
*Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Ohio State);
*Carol Browner (Former EPA head);
*Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois);
*Paul Booth (union leader);
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who has endorsed Clinton, will head the committee. The DNC also named Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California; Former Rep. Howard Berman, and a former CEO, Bonnie Schaefer.
Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports.